LaborTalk for January 2, 2012

Manufacturers Are Hiring Workers in America,
But Offer a Sharp Drop in Wages and Benefits

By Harry Kelber

If you have been unemployed for months and are still looking for a job, the good news is that manufacturers are beginning to hire again, here in the United States. They are even ready to bring their factories and technology back to America after dealing with China and other low-wage countries.

The bad news is that you'll have to accept an enormous pay cut if you are thinking of applying for those new jobs. How much of a pay cut? It will come to $10 0r $15 an hour less than what you earned before the U.S. was engulfed in an economic recession.

Thousands of workers are opting to take those cut-rate jobs, and that includes union members. Labor is weaker than ever, with many unions forced to make deep concessions in wages, pensions and health care in order to avoid massive layoffs.

The AFL-CIO is no match for the global multinational corporations. It has had to accept their conditions in the hope of re-establishing thriving manufacturing industries with good-paying jobs, as in former times.

Many workers thought they would recoup their former wage standard by intermittent pay boosts. But major companies, like General Electric, Ford and other large-scale employers, have locked in their new hiring policies, so that new workers can't rise much above the level on which they were originally hired.

What Is the AFL-CIO's Answer to This Dilemma

The most important mantra of enterprises, large and small, is "low labor costs." It is one of the principal ways in which they increase their profits. They hire skilled lawyers to negotiate contracts that give their employees as little as possible in wages and benefits. Many of them don't mind dealing with unions if the contract provides for an iron-clad two-tier system. They can usually win, because they have more money, resources and greater access to their employees than unions. They can answer strikes with lockouts.

To defeat corporate power, the AFL-CIO has to join with the new global unions in an organizing campaign on a worldwide scale where some victories have actually been achieved. Unfortunately, most top labor leaders are woefully uninformed about global economic warfare and rarely discuss it with their members.

* * * * *

One way by which the AFL-CIO can counterattack against multinational corporations is to wage a campaign against the sale of their products, here in the United States. At present, outsourcing of good-paying American jobs is taking place, almost without any interference and, in fact, with the encouragement of the Obama administration.

We can't let Corporate America impose wage cuts and loss of benefits in return for a job that may or may not materialize.

Instead, we must convince employers, by whatever means, that the price for staying in business obligates them to paying wages that can support a middle-class family.

But let's hear from our leaders. They ought to have something to say.

LaborTalk will be posted here on January 5, 2012 and on our two web sites www.laboreducator.org and on www.laborsvoiceforchange.org.

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